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Police in York launch crackdown on cyclists without lights

Officers will be out in city centre today to educate riders on legal requirements to light up

Police officers in York will later today be stopping cyclists and educating them about the need to be seen as the nights draw, with people who ride without lights during the hours of darkness potentially facing a fine of £50.

That won’t happen this afternoon, however, when officers will be deployed between 16:30 and 18:00hrs in York city centre, because under the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations, cyclists are not required to display lights until sunset, which falls at 18:41hrs tonight.

We contacted North Yorkshire Police for clarification after a reader sent us an email he had received yesterday via the force’s community messaging system about Operation Shimmer, which read:

The hours of darkness are now coming earlier, if you are cyclist please remember to make yourself visible not just with lights but high visibility clothing and bags. On the 1st of October 2018 from 16:30 until 18:00hrs officers will be at strategic locations around York City centre checking cyclists for illuminated lights as you cycle around the city.

Given that the force announced last week that over the coming months it would be targeting people riding at night without lights, we were concerned that some people might be fined even though they would be riding their bikes at a time when it was perfectly legal to do so without them.

In response, a North Yorkshire Police spokesman told “Op Shimmer – in which North Yorkshire Police will be educating cyclists about the use of bike lights and enforcing illegal riding – will run throughout autumn and winter.

“By the end of this month, the sun will set at around 4.30pm. However, for the first few days of the month officers may be out and about during daylight hours.

“In this case, the emphasis will be on engaging with and educating cyclists about being seen. This is an important aspect of our work. It also gives cyclists a chance to understand what they need to do to ensure they are safe and legal before the dark nights draw in.”

Last year, Cycling UK issued updated guidance on the legal situation regarding when lights and reflectors need to be displayed on bicycles as well as the standards they need to comply with.

“Besides issues related to lighting, the Highway Code also recommends that cyclists “should wear reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.”

The North Yorkshire Police spokesman added: “City of York Council has provided 100 sets of bike lights and rucksack covers, which we’ll be handing out. There will be further initiatives throughout the year.

“From the outset of this initiative, regardless of whether it’s light or dark, we’ll also be enforcing red-light running and inappropriate cycling on pavements as this poses a significant safety risk to cyclists and other road users.”

York has one of the highest levels of cycling in the UK, and is not the only city where police in recent years have targeted unlit cyclists as the nights draw in.

Oxford and Cambridge in recent years have both seen initiatives where people stopped for riding in the dark without lights can avoid a fine if within seven days they can provide a receipt to police proving that that they have subsequently bought a set of lights for their bike.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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